How Oladipo fits with the Toronto Raptors
When healthy, Oladipo is one of the better perimeter defenders in the Association. During Oladipo’s breakout campaign in 2017-18 he led the NBA in steals at 2.4 per game. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team and Most Improved Player that season.
The Raptors as an organization pride themselves on defense. They have had a top five defense in each of the last three seasons. The Raptors are second this year, trailing only the Milwaukee Bucks. A perimeter trio of Oladipo, Siakam and OG Anunoby would be arguably the toughest in the whole league.
The Raptors would also be able to ease Oladipo back into the lineup if necessary. The NBA is targeting December 1 for the start of the 2020-21 season. That would be almost two years since Oladipo’s initial injury. He would have played only 13 games during that period of time and may need some time to get back into game shape.
The Raptors currently have the third best record in the NBA. They haven’t missed a beat since Leonard left town. Trading for Oladipo would be about adding a 28 year old, two-time All-Star that can help your team for years to come, not about him dominating on opening night.
In order for the Raptors to make the trade, their medical staff would have to be comfortable with Oladipo’s recovery.
There isn’t much precedent in the NBA for this type of injury. Charles Barkley and Tony Parker both suffered the same injury. Barkley was forced to retire. However, both players were significantly older than Oladipo at the time of their injuries. There have also been significant advances in medicine since Barkley’s injury back in 1999.
Kevin Pritchard the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations said that Oladipo has looked great individual workouts. Oladipo’s mobility has improved. The most important aspect of Oladipo’s rehabilitation is regaining full range of motion in his knee. After that, it is about trying to build the strength back up in his leg.
Paul George and Gordon Hayward both suffered serious leg injuries. It took them almost two years to get back to the pre-injury form.
Oladipo recently admitted that he wasn’t even at 80 percent when he returned to the court earlier this year. But Oladipo appeared to be getting more comfortable. In the final five games, before play was suspended, he averaged 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. If the Raptors’ medical staff is confident that Oladipo can regain his explosiveness and get back to his All-Star level then acquiring him now would be almost a no brainer.
With that being said, trading for Oladipo may come at the expense of chasing Giannis Antetokounmpo should he hit free agency next summer.
There haven’t been any indications that Giannis wants to leave the Bucks. Seeing him in a Raptors’ uniform could just be a pipedream. Is it worth rolling the dice if a player like Oladipo were to become available?
Oladipo is a better fit with the Raptors’ current roster. The team wants to re-sign Fred VanVleet this summer. VanVleet (26), Oladipo (28), Siakam (26) and Anunoby (22) gives the Raptors four players entering their prime that will keep this team atop the Eastern Conference for years to come.
If the Toronto Raptors were to add Giannis, either he or Siakam would likely have to shift to centre. Otherwise, Siakam would be forced to shift down a position and then the Raptors could bring Anunoby off the bench.
The Los Angeles Lakers are dealing with a similar dilemma with Anthony Davis. The Lakers are better off playing Davis at centre and LeBron James at power forward. However, Davis prefers to play power forward. This forces James to move down a spot and Kyle Kuzma to come off the bench.
It is unclear whether Giannis would be prepared to make the shift. To date, he has always played with a more traditional big man. Brook Lopez is tasked with banging against opposing centres in the post, which allows Giannis to avoid taking a beating from bigger players on the defensive end.
There is no doubt that Giannis is the superior player. He is the reigning MVP and appears to be a lock to win the award again this season. But the Raptors won’t be the only team chasing Giannis if he becomes a free agent. The smart move would be to add Oladipo now and worry about the possible salary cap gymnastics next summer.
Plus if the Toronto Raptors are lucky enough to sign Giannis it would require gutting the rest of the roster. Goodbye Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. The Raptors may not even be able to keep Norman Powell. The team would be a shell of its former self.
Acquiring Oladipo in a trade would allow the Toronto Raptors to re-sign any or all of their current players. They would have still had access to the mid-level exception. The Raptors could build a stronger roster instead of relying on aging veterans trying to chase a ring.
Oladipo is exactly the type of player that would raise the Toronto Raptors’ ceiling. He takes them from a strong playoff team to a true contender. If Oladipo becomes available, the Toronto Raptors shouldn’t hesitant.